5 Proven Tips to Ask Someone If They Speak Another Language

There are times when you may need to ask if someone speaks another language. Maybe you don’t understand the language one speaks or you want to pass a message better in a different language.

In such a situation, you may want to ask the person if they’re able to speak a language you’re more comfortable with.

It’s tricky to ask such a question because you don’t want the person to feel offended.

To ask someone if they speak another language, briefly explain why you want to switch to another language and what advantage you hope to gain. Do this in a friendly and respectful manner.

Be Respectful

It’s very important to be polite as you ask someone if they can speak another language. According to a 2017 article by the Washington Post, communication should be respectful to get positive feedback from the other person you’re speaking with. [1]

So, if you’re in a foreign country and you’re not fluent in the native language, it’s okay to ask the person you’re speaking with if they can speak another language.

You should be deliberately respectful as you ask the question since your question can be misinterpreted, depending on the way you ask it.

For example, you may say this: “Why is your language too complicated? I don’t get anything you’re saying. Can you speak English?”

If you look at this statement keenly, it’s disrespectful. You sound as if there’s a problem with the language. This has the potential of offending the other person.

Instead of that statement, you may say this:

“Am not very fluent in French. Kindly, can you speak English?”

There’s a very significant difference between these two examples. This one sounds more polite. The person you’re asking the question to is less likely to feel offended.

So, make sure to ask your question politely, otherwise, the conversation may not end well.

Use Simple Language

The essence of communication is to ensure that your audience gets your message. If you choose words that are hard to understand, you may not pass the intended message effectively.

Therefore, it’s advisable to always take note of the person(s) you’re talking to and use the right words. For example, the way you talk with a college professor is not the same way you talk with a tour guide you’ve met in a foreign country.

Whenever you’re asking someone if they speak another language, it’s important to be simple in the words you use.

For example, if you’re in an overseas country and wish to use English to communicate, you can ask whether the person you’re talking to can speak the same.

In such a situation, all you need is to ask a simple question such as:

“Sir, can you speak English?”

This question is easy to understand. There are no complicated words or phrases and the person can understand what you’re saying.

On the other hand, you should avoid a question like this: “Do you comprehend English semantics?”

This could be a complicated sentence for a non-native English speaker to understand. If the person does not understand what you’re saying, then your communication is likely not to have positive outcomes.

Avoid sounding complicated and you’ll be able to get the best out of your interaction with the other person.

Be Friendly

When asking the question, make an effort of being friendly. The more friendly you are, the more you’re likely to get positive feedback from the person you’re asking the question.

Remember, people can get very defensive when asked questions in a way they don’t appreciate. Just like it is in everyday interactions if you act in a friendly way you’ll be able to attract positive results.

The way you ask the question will determine the way the person answers you.

Being friendly can be evident in the words you use. For example, you can ask the question in this manner:

“Hey friend, can you speak English? I will be able to explain better in it.”

This statement is friendly and invites the person to be more receptive to your request. To avoid sounding rude when asking a sensitive question, try using approachable language.

Show Genuine Interest

It’s imperative to show genuine interest when asking someone if they speak another language.

You should show that you’re interested in furthering the conversation with the other person for them to consider your request.

You can show your interest to continue talking with someone by asking the question in this way:

“I would like to understand the topic further. Can you speak English? I feel like we will be able to explore it better.”

This statement shows that you’re genuinely interested in the subject you’re talking about and that it would be helpful if you used English to communicate.

Show Appreciation

Make an effort of showing appreciation as you ask another person if they can speak a different language.

Generally, when a person feels appreciated, they can give positive feedback and improve their level of engagement.

In this situation, you need to show the person that you appreciate the language they are using, but you would like to speak English for one reason or another.

For instance, you can say:

“I really love your language. I know if I stay here longer I’ll be able to learn more. But, for today, can you kindly speak English? It will help a lot in our discussion.”

This statement is positive as it shows appreciation. The person will be more than willing to switch to your preferred language if they can speak it.

Make sure that your body language is positive as well. It’s possible to speak positively but your body language says otherwise.

If your verbal and non-verbal communication is in agreement as you ask the question, you’ll make things easier.


[1]: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/how-we-communicate-is-changing